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LOCAL EVENT: Visions of Sugar Plums

Special Photo: Richard Calmes. Gwinnett Ballet Theatre dancer Jessica Kaczor applies make-up backstage before a performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Performing Arts Center at Gwinnett Center. Kaczor shares the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy with fellow GBT dancer Erin Sipsy.

Special Photo: Richard Calmes. Gwinnett Ballet Theatre dancer Jessica Kaczor applies make-up backstage before a performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Performing Arts Center at Gwinnett Center. Kaczor shares the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy with fellow GBT dancer Erin Sipsy.

"I can't imagine Christmas without 'The Nutcracker,'" ballerina Erin Sipsy said. "It goes all in all with the holiday spirit."

Gwinnett residents can share the spirit of season with Sipsy and her fellow dancers as they continue a tradition started 28 years ago with Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's first production of "The Nutcracker."

"We find that the audience support of this classic certainly invigorates the holiday spirit, evidenced by the growing audiences each year," said Lisa Sheppard Robson, artistic director for the Gwinnett Ballet Theatre. "Every year we seem to be packing the houses out."

When the familiar, opening bars of the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" begin, 17-year-old Sipsy steps into a role she has dreamed of dancing since she first began learning ballet.

"When everybody thinks of 'Nutcracker' they think of Sugar Plum," the Loganville teen said, "and that's me."

It's also Jessica Kaczor of Snellville, who was co-cast in the role.

"It's wonderful," the 16-year-old said of dancing the premiere role in the ballet. "Gwinnett Ballet Theater has given me the best thing that I can have. To be able to perform this role, it's an incredible feeling."

Kaczor started ballet lessons with Gwinnett Ballet Theatre at the age of 7 and has performed in "The Nutcracker" every holiday season since.

"I've done many roles," she said. "I've done everything from a Polichinelle and an angel to Fritz and Clara."

"I believe it is true to say that each of the girls has worn every costume we have all the way up to the Sugar Plum Fairy," Sheppard Robson said. Sugar Plum certainly is something they all grow up to dream of becoming. To see them out there and picture them with what seems to be yesterday in their little Polichinelle outfits, it brings a tear to your eye about how very quickly they grow up.

"I've caught a number of tears in their parents eyes as they watched them assume this role and just stun everyone with their beauty and artistry and maturity," she added.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's "The Nutcracker" is in its final weekend run with what Sheppard Robson described as a fabulous array of sets, scenery and costuming. A live orchestra will accompany the more than 100 dancers performing in the production.

"I'm very proud," Sheppard Robson said of the ballet. "I've tweaked it for many, many years and I feel it is exactly the way I would have it. I feel it's very challenging choreographically for the dancers and I think the energy they give in order to strive to that level is what the audience appreciates and is drawn into each moment."